Letter 327a

327a. Wilhelm Schlegel to Sophie Bernhardi in Berlin: Jena, 14 August 1801 [*]

Jena, [Friday] 14 August 1801

Bernhardi has surely attested to you, dearest friend, how heroically I pulled myself out of his arms and climbed into the Regulus-barrel of the postal coach, in which, however, except for the rather dull and gossipy company, I had a tolerable enough time of it. [1]

In Halle I immediately caught the extra-post carriage [2] and arrived here Tuesday afternoon. [3] Had I not been detained at night between Halle and Merseburg by the inundation and then by a ferry being delayed, my trip would have been completed by Tuesday morning. [4]

Unfortunately, I found Caroline in bed and already sick for two weeks. The fever has in the meantime subsided, she is on the road to recovery and will soon be well again. The other four charming ladies are all doing well, were quite delighted by the things I brought along, and are extremely grateful to you for the tasteful selection. [5]

Although I thought I would be able to write you today with the appropriate leisure, my time has been spent largely amid obligatory visits, hence you must make do with a few hasty lines. After recovering a bit from the initial fatigue of the journey, I have spent the past few days rummaging around in my papers and books and then in cordial conversation, though such has also prevented me from getting around to any other activity.

Lest I forget the most important thing, let me relate that a week ago today Humboldt paid Caroline a visit and reported that Friedrich Tieck was hard upon his heels. [6] The reason for his delayed departure from Paris was allegedly the recent opening of the Italian Salon, which he yet wanted to study. Because he has allegedly received commissions for work in the new Weimar castle, which he apparently must commence immediately, Humboldt doubts he would be coming to Berlin, at least for now. [7]

If you should see either Buri or Hummel, tell them that I have not yet been able to go over to Weimar to show the drawings, [8] since Goethe has not yet returned and Meyer has traveled out to meet him. [9]Schiller, too, left for Dresden a few days ago. [10]

I have seen a great deal of my brother these last few days, and we have thoroughly discussed all our projects. Tomorrow he will be departing for Franconia to pick up Madam Veit from the mineral-springs spa; [11] he will be gone for but a week. — I found him quite alone, so the time we were able to spend together was all the more undisturbed.

If Fröhlich has not yet sent the copy of Shakespeare up to the 6th volume for Buri, please cancel it except for volumes 1 and 2. I found that I myself still have some copies of all the following volumes, which I can either send along at some time or bring back myself.

Give my warmest regards to Bernhardi. I am very much hoping for a letter from you, since you will presumably be so kind as to accompany the letters that arrive for me with a few lines of your own. [12] Please give me especially detailed news about your health; [13] what effect the Icelandic moss, sago, and chocolate have had. [14] Let me implore you no longer to drink as much tea. We have almost done away with it entirely in our household because of its aesthenic effects. [15] At the very least, do not drink it without first dissolving an egg in it. You should also be using warm baths, which is an excellent thing. I myself have already taken a couple here. Please, please, be extremely careful and gentle with yourself.

How is the comedy of intrigue coming? If your interest in it has reawakened, the rather imminent deadline for submission (mid-September) could probably be extended were I to request such from Goethe. [16]

Stay very well, dear friends; in thought I am still with you both.

Please forgive the meager contents of this letter. My eyes are heavy with sleep. [17]

Sincerely yours,
A. W. Schlegel

Caroline sends her kind regards.


[*] Source: Josef Körner, (1930), 1:127–28; notes 2:55–56 (notes to letter 103).

Concerning the source of these letters between Wilhelm and Sophie Bernhardi, and their significance for the relationship between Wilhelm and Caroline, see supplementary appendix 327d.1.

Wilhelm here uses Sie, the formal form of address. To wit, when he and Sophie exchange letters, they use this formal form of address if the letters are such that they could (safely) be read by the spouses as well, namely, Caroline and August Ferdinand Bernhardi. When one writes to the other alone, that is, a letter not meant for the spouse’s eyes, they use the familiar (first-name) form of address, du. Similarly, because the du-letters ran the risk of interception and were, of course, of a decidedly different nature, certain precautions had to be taken. Back.

[1] Wilhelm is engaging a decidedly tongue-in-cheek metaphor drawn from classical antiquity to describe the torment of postal-carriage travel at the time.

The Roman commander Marcus Atilius Regulus acquired fame in Rome in 255 BCE during the Second Punic War for having quite unexpectedly advised the Roman senate, after he himself was captured by the Carthaginians and then taken to Rome as part of a peace delegation, against exchanging Carthaginian prisoners for his own freedom.

In keeping with his promise, he voluntarily returned to Carthage as a prisoner of war, where, the Carthaginians having been angered by his earlier demand for unconditional surrender, he was allegedly sealed in a barrel and executed through torture (Livy, The History of Titus Livius, 3 vols. [London 1815], 2:259, book 18, chap. 65 [Horace similarly mentions the incident in his Odes 3:5]):

Thus being left to his choice, he refused to speak with his wife, and avoiding the fond embraces and kisses of his little children, be was carried back to Carthage, where he ended his days by the most excruciating tortures that could be inflicted. For having cut off his eye-lids, they kept him some time in a dungeon, from whence they then brought him out when the sun was at the hottest and obliged him to look at the light.

Afterwards they put him in a wooden chest, turned towards the sun, and drove full of nails with the points inwards, and so narrow, that he was obliged to stand continually upright in it. For whichever way he leaned the nails pierced his weary body, and he died by the extremity of the torture, and for want of sleep.

Such was the end of M. Atilius Regulus, which was more remarkable and illustrious even than his life, though spent in great glory and renown. He was a man of uncorrupted integrity, inflexible constancy, and great conduct.

And neither his contemporaries nor posterity could find any fault with him, except that he seems to have borne prosperity with too much levity, and by rejecting the suit of the Carthaginians entailed a war, that lasted many years, upon both states to their unspeakable prejudice

Here in an illustration (engraving) from 1602 by Antonio Fantuzzi:


See Wilhelm’s later review of Berlin performances of Heinrich Joseph von Collin’s tragic drama Regulus: Eine Tragödie in fünf Aufzügen (Berlin 1802). Back.

[2] See anonymous review of Henry Frederick Link, Travels in Portugal and through France and Spain, with a Dissertation on the Literature of Portugal, and the Spanish and Portuguese Languages, trans. John Hinckley, in The Anti-Jacobin Review and Magazine, or, Monthly Political and Literary Censor 10 (London 1801), August–December, October, 170–86, here:173, pp. 41–43 in Link’s book (illustration: Taschen-Kalender auf das Jahr 1811, mit sechs Fabeln von Lafontaine [1811]; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):

But a German, who loves his native soil, cannot speak of the conveniences for travelling in other countries, as compared with his own, without concern: for he may easily imagine himself in the situation of a foreigner, who must take his countrymen for barbarians, when he sees how wretched the roads are in many parts, and the post often creeping along in open carriages, in the raw climate of Germany; and even these open, jolting vehicles, paid for as extra-post.


To this may be added, the numerous impositions of the postillions, and the rudeness of the servants of the post, in which quality my countrymen exceed all other nations, even the English. In Germany, those who travel extra-post may expect sometimes to wait half the day on their horses. Back.

[3] Tuesday, 11 August 1801. Back.

[4] Caroline mentions the current heavy rains (“Primal Flood”) in her letter to Wilhelm on 27 July 1801 (letter 327).

For the general postal route between Berlin and Leipzig, see Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Auguste on 20 April 1799 (letter 234a), note 2.

Here one can follow the postal route from Berlin to Jena as it runs between Halle, Merseburg, and Jena. The course of the Saale River is marked in blue, including where travelers must cross it by ferry between Halle and Merseburg; distressed ferries during such weather were not uncommon (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]; illustration: Calendar für das Jahr 1803 [Offenbach]; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):




[5] Taschenkalender auf das Jahr 1798 für Damen; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung:


Although Josef Körner, (1930), 2:55, identifies these four ladies as Caroline’s sister Luise Wiedemann with her daughters Emma and Luise (Minna) along with Julie Gotter, all of whom had allegedly been visiting Caroline for several weeks and were staying in her home, such is not possible, since Minna Wiedemann was not born until 18 August 1802 (not 1801 as in Luise’s memoirs, where Luise incorrectly recalls the date while correctly providing other family information during the period).

Even were 1801 the correct year of birth, Minna was not born until 18 August, and Wilhelm is here writing on 14 August. Assuming for the moment that he might in any case be referring affectionately to little Emma Wiedemann, who was not yet quite three years old, as a “charming lady,” the identity of the fourth lady remains uncertain. Perhaps Rose, the maidservant? In any case, nowhere does Wilhelm mention Minna (Luise) Wiedemann specifically during this period.

Over the course of the spring of 1801, Caroline requested that Wilhelm secure certain items in Berlin for her housemates. See, e.g., her letters to Wilhelm on 1–2 March 1801 (letter 293), 7–8 May 1801 (letter 314), and 18 May 1801 (letter 317).

She had, moreover, variously suggested that Sophie Bernhardi, Friederike Unzelmann, or Johanna Henriette Meyer be enlisted to help Wilhelm with the selections. In her letter to her mother, Luise Gotter, on 18 August 1801 (letter 327d.1), Julie mentions that “Herr Schlegel brought along a very fine, large scarf for me.” Back.

[6] Although (as Wilhelm goes on to mention) Friedrich Tieck had been commissioned with executing the grand bas-relief on the main steps of the Weimar castle, Caroline and Wilhelm were similarly keen to negotiate with him in person about doing work on a memorial for Auguste, and over the course of the spring and summer of 1801 have regularly wondered when he would be returning from Paris (W. R. Shepherd, Historical Map of Central Europe about 1786 [1926]):


For cross references, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 31 May–1 June 1801 (letter 319), note 4. Humboldt had been in contact with Tieck in Paris. Back.

[7] Friedrich Tieck arrived in Weimar approx. on 5 September 1801 and dined with Goethe there on 6 September. Although Wilhelm visited Goethe in Weimar on 8 September, Tieck had in the meantime gone to Jena, and the two finally met on 9 September after Wilhelm’s return there (Weimarer Ausgabe 3:3:34; see Wilhelm’s letter to Goethe on 11 September 1801, Körner-Wieneke, 120) (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[8] See Wilhelm’s letter to Goethe of the same day, 14 August 1801 (letter 327c). The pieces were to be entered in the Weimar Art Competition of 1801 (“The Fight of Achilles with the Rivers”), a topic that recurs in coming letters. Back.

[9] Goethe was in Pyrmont from 5 June till 30 August 1801. Heinrich Meyer journeyed as far as Cassel to meet him on the return journey (see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 31 May 1801 [letter 319], note 3 for the locations). Caroline speaks about Goethe’s visits in Göttingen and Pyrmont esp. in her letter to Wilhelm on 22 June 1801 (letter 322). Back.

[10] After receiving a visit on 1 August 1801 from Wilhelm von Humboldt after the latter’s return from Paris, Schiller and his wife and sister-in-law departed for Dresden on 6 August 1801, arriving on 9 August and spending August with the family of Christian Gottfried Körner in Körner’s vineyard house in Loschwitz just across the River Elbe from Dresden proper, and then (from 1 September) in Dresden.

On 16 September 1801, he visited Georg Joachim Göschen in Hohenstädt, continuing then on to Leipzig, where he attended the premiere of the Jungfrau von Orleans on 17 September (see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 11 May 1801 [letter 315], note 5).

He departed Dresden amid an emotional farewell from the Körners on 18 September, arriving back in Weimar on 20 September, where Friederike Unzelmann would give her first performance (in Maria Stuart] on 21 September (Ernst Müller, Regesten vu Friedrich Schillers Leben und Werken [Leipzig 1900], 152) (Rudolf Koch and Fritz Kredel, Deutschland und angrenzende Gebiete [Leipzig 1937]):



[11] Dorothea Veit had traveled with her son Philipp Veit to Franconia and Bocklet on 20 July 1801 with H. E. G. Paulus, and returned with Friedrich on 22 August 1801 (see Caroline’s letters to Wilhelm on 6 July 1801 [letter 324]; 19–20 July 1801 [letter 326]; and 27 July 1801 [letter 327]). They arrived in Bocklet by 27 July 1801. Back.

[12] Wilhelm had been residing with the Bernhardis in Berlin at Jungfernbrücke 10. See the supplementary appendix on Wilhelm’s residences in Berlin. Back.

[13] Sophie Bernhardi had given birth to a son, Ludwig Bernhardi, during the first week of July 1801. Wilhelm had been a godparent. See Caroline’s letters to Wilhelm on 19–20 July 1801 (letter 326) and 27 July 1801 (letter 327).

See esp. Sophie Bernhardi’s letter to Wilhelm on ca. 20 August 1801 (letter 327e): “I have been very ill for several days now, am tormented every night by fever, am coughing up a great deal of blood, and will in fact surely die soon.” Then in the next sentence: “But do not take it too seriously etc.” Back.

[14] See the J. S. Forsyth, The New London Medical and Surgical Dictionary (London 1826), s.v. “sago”:

Sago. Sagus. Sagu. A dry fecula, obtained from the pith of a species of palm, the Cycas circualis, of Linnaeus, in the islands of Java, Molucca, and the Philippines. Sago is also brought from the West Indies, but it is inferior to that brought from the East. It becomes soft and transparent by boiling in water, and forms a light and agreeable liquid, much recommended in febrile, pthisical, and calculous disorders, &c.

Concerning chocolate, see William Buchan, Domestic Medicine, or, a Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases by Regimen and Simple Medicines (New York 1812), 78, in the chapter “Of Aliment”:

Chocolate is a nutritive and wholesome composition if taken in small quantity, and not repeated too often; but is generally hurtful to the stomach of those with whom a vegetable diet disagrees. By the addition of vanilla and other ingredients it is made too heating, and so much effects particular constitutions as to excite nervous symptoms, especially complaints of the head.

Also G. Motherby, A New Medical Dictionary, or, General Repository of Physic, ed. George Wallis, 4th ed. (London 1795), 164:

The principal use of this kind of nut [cacao] is for making the liquor which is known by the name of chocolate; which is a mild, unctuous, nutritious fluid, and greatly demulcent [relieving irritation or inflammation]. In hectic, scorbutic, and catarrhous disorders, an atrophy, malignant itch, and hooping cough, chocolate made in the usual way is said to relieve after all other usual methods have failed. In all disorders from an acrid salt, whether acid or bilious, this liquor is highly useful. When chocolate is mixed with demulcent and aromatic ingredients, it is useful for the hypochondriac and melancholic. It is said to make the teeth black.

See also earlier remarks about chocolate soup in her letter to Luise Gotter on 16 April 1795 (letter 149). Back.

[15] “Aesthenic,” weakening; in his letter to Sophie on 21 August 1801 (letter 327f), Wilhelm further specifies that Sophie was taking the sago in a wine soup; wine was considered a “sthenic,” or strengthening agent according to the Brunonian method. Back.

[16] Sophie Bernhardi authored a play to be submitted for the dramatic competition Goethe was holding that autumn and winter.

The play, Donna Laura, is extant only in manuscript form (M. Breuer, “Sophie Bernhardi geb. Tieck als romantische Dichterin,” diss. Tübingen 1914). References to Wilhelm’s attempts to place the piece in the competition and even to have it performed in Weimar recur over the course of the autumn and winter.

Goethe was actually pleased with the piece, albeit with reservations (see Caroline’s letters to Wilhelm on 15 February 1802 [letter 347] and 22 February 1802 [letter 348]; also Goethe’s letter to Wilhelm in early February 1802 [Körner-Wieneke, 126–27]), but it seems never to have been performed in Weimar, though it was indeed performed in Berlin on 22 September 1821, albeit to little acclaim.

Concerning the competition, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 25 May 1801 (letter 318), note 18, and, with regard to Clemens Brentano’s entry, on 29 June 1801 (letter 323), with note 11. Back.

[17] Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Young Man Writing by Lamplight; National Gallery of Art, Washington DC:



Translation © 2015 Doug Stott